Boo-hoo. Back at work. Wish I was still cycle touring. But these photos will keep me going until the next family bike trip.
We’ve just returned from cycling along Scotland’s Great Glen, the 70-mile geological fault line between Inverness and Fort William. Over four days of cycling we went there and back, using the dirt tracks and steeps of the Great Glen Way, a waymarked walking route. The fast-and-furious A82 between Inverness and Fort William is scenic because it skirts Loch Ness and other water features but the Great Glen Way is even more spectacular because it takes the high road, with jaw-dropping vistas down to the lochs.
On the return journey we backtracked along the towpaths of Thomas Telford’s monumental Caledonian Canal and then climbed to Whitebridge and the famous Falls of Foyers. After Fort Augustus we were on minor roads, some of them singletrack for long distances.
The Reidlets – Josh, 10, and Hanna and Ellie, both 8 – coped well with the unthinking motorists who use the minor roads as race-tracks. On their Islabikes they also coped well with the rocky descents of parts of the Great Glen Way.
The Great Glen Way stopped being promoted as a long-distance bike route in 2006, although cycling is still permissible because of Scotland’s access laws. The southern half of the route is easy enough, it’s on the canal towpath but the northern half is tough going, especially for kids carting pannier bags. Some of the descents are steep, rocky and sandy in places. Looking back now it’s amazing we got the kids down some of the descents.
We did about 32 miles each day. This might sound a lot for little kids but they’ve done 50+ miles a day in previous tours. 32 miles on rough stuff was an enormous ask for the kids and we arrived at our pre-booked B&Bs much later than we had planned for.
The route might have been tougher than we had expected but the fabulous weather brought out the very best in the landscapes and we were treated to postcard-perfect views of Highland highlights such as Ben Nevis, Neptune’s Staircase and Urquhart Castle.
It was still sunny when we left Inverness yesterday. Half way in to the six hour train journey it started raining. Our ride home was a wet one, but at least it hadn’t rained on our hols.
I was using Arkel pannier bags for the first time. What stunning bags! I wish I’d had this kind of equipment on previous tours.
Ellie enjoying elevated views down to Loch Ness
Wildlife spotting is easy on a bike tour, and so is wildlife hugging. The frogs en route must have been glad of our passing
The Caledonian Canal towpath from Fort Augustus is well-surfaced and, of course, wonderfully flat
Hanna descending to Loch Ness
The newest of the Loch Ness visitor centres has a revolving statue of the world-famous beastie
This was my first long distance test of the SatMap GPS device. This features genuine OS mapping and was a joy to use. As well as being able to show the kids a little blue dot showing our current position, using the joystick in map planning mode I was able to accurately answer the perpetual question: “Are we there yet, dad?”…No, not for another 2.3 miles, kids… And all while riding along, no fumbling with paper maps.
Long days in the saddle meant the SatMap would potentially run out of juice. Using the famously fiercesome power of the Scottish sun – ha! – I kept the SatMap going for the last half an hour of each day by using the Freeloader solar charger. The add-on Supercharger solar panel fitted perfectly on the pannier rack, held in place with a Velcro strap and clips.
Naturally, it wasn’t all cycling. We also took kid-friendly side trips. This is a funny shot taken by Josh on ‘Harry Potter Hogwarts Express’ steam-train journey from Fort William to Mallaig. This might be one of the world’s most scenic train journeys but this chap had seen enough for the day.
We rode Inverness to Fort William on the way down and Fort William to Fort Augustus on the way back. This was all on the Great Glen Way. From Fort Augustus we took to the roads, from Foyers to Dores to Inverness.
More pix here.
A four-page article on our 2007 family cycle camping holiday to the Netherlands has been published in the April edition of Cycling Plus magazine.
When I get the time – and my dad, who sells the adverts on BritishCycling.org.uk, has booked in an ‘end of part one’ video advert – I’ll be creating a YouTube and Apple TV featurette on this trip. I got lots of footage of ‘normal’ people on bikes. That wasn’t us, we were in Lycra and wore helmets.
It was fab for the Reidlets to travel in a country that really looked after its cyclists.
We saw this great looking bionic leg in a campsite near Amsterdam, but never bumped into the owner so couldn’t ask him how long it took to recharge and whether it had a pedalling action:
The trip was pretty green. We cycled eight miles from our home in Newcastle to the DFDS ferry at North Shields and landed near Amsterdam the next day. No flights, no car trips.
Our next bike holiday is to Scotland in May, pre-midgies. We’ll be taking the train. I hope our kids grow up to realise you don’t need an SUV to get to fun places. The best ‘people carrier’ is the one with two wheels, fuelled by breakfast.
I love YouTube. It was the first kid on the block and gets huge numbers of visitors. The Quickrelease.tv videos on YouTube have had 464,993 views between them. A Tour de France movie vid has had 71,233 views. YouTube is great for quick vids but is not so hot on delivering hi-res footage.
To date I have also been loading some vids to the Quickrelease.tv podcast on Libsyn and iTunes. These were OK for iPod viewing but, after watching HD podcasts on the latest incarnation of the Apple TV, I’m going to deliver the vids in Apple TV’s m4v format.
Despite the name, the Apple TV podcast-to-movies-to-Flikr set-top box thingy is syncable to a PC as well as a Mac. In fact, with the latest software, it doesn’t even need a computer of any sort, just an HD TV.
If you’ve not got an Apple TV, the next best thing is to watch videos loaded to Vimeo.com. I’ve just created an account and will load all future vids to Vimeo as well as Apple TV. I’ll continue to place lo-res vids on YouTube.
Here’s the first Vimeo vid:
How to get kids to fix bicycles from Quickrelease.tv on Vimeo.
It features a load of kiddie bike racing at the beginning and then leads into a bike mechanics training session for the Newcastle Phoenix kids.
I was really surprised at how enthusiastic they were to fix their own bikes. Some of the older kids had never mended their own punctures, always letting mum or dad get on with it.
I hope the Weldtech session by mechanic Jeff Beach gets them to do their own bike fettling. After all, if the older kids want to go out for long rides by themselves, they’ll need to know some bike tech basics.
Newcastle Phoenix is a British Cycling ‘Go Ride’ club, a club for 6-18 year olds. I’m one of the coaches at this club. On November 24th we’re moving from Newcastle’s Town Moor to Blakelaw Park. We’ll have a lock-up bike storage facility, a safe place to leave all the Kona cyclo cross bikes we’ll be riding.
To publicise the move I’ve created this mash-up slide show movie. I say create, I should really say uploaded to animoto and then let those guys do all the MTV-style graphics.
Click on the arrow to play the movie. For photo nerds like me, Animoto is manna from heaven. It’s simple to upload pix and then have the site create a really cool video, along with a sound track you can load yourself or choose from Animoto’s ‘music lounge’. I never thought I’d ever say this, but Animoto makes mincemeat out of Apple’s slideshow and movie apps. In fact, Animoto is more Apple than Apple.
Pix by me and Dr. Brian Smith.
And here’s one I did earlier. It’s a dad-and-his-boy bike tour in Luxembourg. Check out the donkey eating the SDG saddle on the Dahon Hammerhead.